What is one choice every couple should make in the midst of their storm?
It might sound like a simple question, but it is incredibly important. One of the most important choices we can make as a couple is to move toward community instead of away from it.
The challenge for most of us is that we are individuals. It’s far easier for many of us to be private than vulnerable, busy than available, and isolated instead of interdependent. As a result, we miss out on the joy, blessing and of course, hard work of doing life together.
At the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that it is not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Ill-suited to do life by himself, God graciously gives Adam a wife. Together, the first married couple would have the capacity for intimate love, meaningful friendship, and the ability to show the world what God is like (Ephesians 5:21-27). They give us the first glimpse of how a husband and wife share a unique and intimate bond.
But it is not good for a couple to be alone either.
The rest of the Bible shows us how a healthy and growing marriage was meant to be lived out in the context of community or deep and meaningful friendship. One of the greatest dangers to our marriage is not just isolation from our spouse, but isolation from other people. We were meant to live in relationship with others who will not come between our marriage, but help fight for our marriage – especially in the midst of suffering.
When I (Patrick) was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, one of the things we discovered very quickly was that there are two kind of friends: those who move toward your pain and those who move away from it. There are many who might be there for us initially, but as the crises subsides, so does their care. And there are friends who might genuinely love us, but feel so uncomfortable or ill-prepared to help, that it’s easier to stay distant.
So we have to resist feeling hurt in our hurt. We have to avoid moving away from people, instead of toward them. We know that suffering can often times cause us to withdraw. In our pain, we might feel like it’s too hard to be around people. And while this might be true at times, and in different stages of our hurt and healing, it’s never where God wants us to stay. Staying disconnected can be dangerous.
The writer of Proverbs in the Old Testament says it this way:
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. — Proverbs 18:1
And so one of the best steps we can take to get through our suffering is to invite the right people in. We want to avoid “isolating” ourselves.
We say the “right people” on purpose. There are certainly plenty of people that might want to surround you in your hurt. But it takes wisdom to know who to say “yes” to and who to say “no” to. We want people who genuinely care for us, encourage us, and strengthen us. We want a person who is grounded in God’s Word and can be the presence of Christ to us in our suffering.
And so right now, in the middle of your hurt, a next step is beginning to surround yourself with the right people. Which might look like calling a friend or family member on a regular basis. Or inviting someone to meet with you regularly for coffee or lunch. Maybe it’s asking a friend to come over and pray with you, read scripture over you, or simply just be with you. And many times, we need to reach out to a pastor, counselor, or therapist, to walk alongside of us.
We were not meant to be alone.
And right now, in the middle of your chaos you need community. You need to move toward others instead of away. It is one of the most important choices a couple can make in the midst of their suffering.
Patrick and Ruth Schwenk
Written for Faith.Full by Patrick & Ruth Schwenk, authors of In a Boat in the Middle of a Lake.
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Don’t go it alone! Isolation is dangerous. If you’re in a crisis (or even before a season of trauma), grab your community and accept their help, compassion, and prayers! Who are you relying on? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full